WASHINGTON — There's a lot of misinformation online about gun control in Virginia, and a lot of it circulated online as rally-goers marched to Capitol Square on Monday.
Our Verify team worked to fact-check four claims making the rounds.
QUESTION #1: Is the National Guard being activated to confiscate guns from Virginia homes?
ANSWER #1: No, according to Governor Ralph Northam and the Virginia National Guard.
This bit of misinformation was picked up by several pro-gun websites. Verify viewer Dan Orwig from Woodbridge, Virginia asked our team to check it out.
Our Verify researchers contacted Gov. Northam's press secretary Alena Yarmosky, who said the claim is "absolutely false, and that "people who spread lies like this should be ashamed of themselves."
Gov. Northam unequivocally denied the rumor during his State of the Commonwealth speech in early January.
"No one is calling out the National Guard," Northam said. "No one is cutting off your electricity, or turning off the Internet. No one is going door-to-door to confiscate guns."
The National Guard tweeted that they "have not received any requests from the Governor, or anyone on his staff, about serving in a law enforcement role related to any proposed legislation."
QUESTION #2: A lot of rally-goers showed up to Richmond armed with rifles and handguns. Was the gun ban at Virginia's capitol being enforced?
ANSWER #2: The State of Emergency gun ban, issued by Northam, was enforced. Those photographed with firearms were not allowed past the Capitol perimeter.
Gov. Northam declared a state of emergency ahead of the Richmond Rally—saying leave your guns at home, don’t bring them on Capitol grounds.
Yet, all over Twitter, photos, and videos of rally-goers dressed in camo and wearing a rifle, popped up. Lots of people were confused about whether the gun ban was being enforced.
Our researchers called Joe Macenka, a spokesperson for Virginia’s Capitol Police. He said the ban is being enforced.
All those photos and videos were likely taken outside the Capitol grounds which is clearly marked with a green gate.
The 'gun ban' perimeter spanned east of 9th Street, south of Broad Street, West of Governors Street and North of Bank Street, according to Macenka, with the Capitol building at the very center.
There’s one entrance on 9th Street, and it’s heavily guarded, with 17 metal detectors and several wands.
The State of Emergency is set to end Tuesday at 5 p.m. Firearms and weapons--including handguns, pistols, rifles, torches, poles, bats and shields--were among the items prohibited from Capitol grounds.
QUESTION #3: Did YouTube end live streams from the Richmond rally?
ANSWER #3: Yes, in fact, YouTube ended WUSA9's live stream twice.
Several people on Twitter and Facebook noticed that several YouTube live streams from the Richmond rally ended abruptly.
So, did YouTube end live streams taken from the Richmond rally?
We can Verify this one is true because our newsroom experienced it first-hand.
We got this alert on your YouTube page citing a "complaint of a Community Guidelines Violation."
Our Verify researchers looked at company policy for this one.
"Live streams that feature someone holding or handling a firearm, regardless of whether or not they are firing it," is example of content that isn't allowed on YouTube according to company policy. Live streams featuring someone transporting firearms, is also banned.
However, news organizations are exempt from this policy, according to YouTube, and some of the WUSA9 live streams of the Richmond rally were removed in error.
QUESTION #4: Did gun sales in Virginia spike a month after the Virginia election?
ANSWER #4: Yes, December was the highest month for gun sales in Virginia, followed by November.
In the month following Virginia elections, some people are claiming that gun stores are seeing a spike in gun sales.
This surge of gun sales came in the same month that hundreds of counties, cities, and towns become second amendment sanctuaries.
Our Verify team received a breakdown of gun sales by month directly from Virginia State Police:
- Jan - 35,764
- Feb - 39,300
- Mar - 45,826
- Apr - 32,663
- May - 28,425
- Jun - 31,501
- July - 30,593
- Aug - 38,256
- Sep - 34,970
- Oct - 38,317
- Nov - 55,086
- Dec - 73,849
During the month of December, there were an estimated 73,849-gun sales, according to numbers from Virginia State Police.
That includes data from gun shows.